Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Styles in Craft: Maximum or minimum?

Over at Heim Binas Fiction CKHB posted about minimalism and maximalism in writing styles, this is based off a seminar she went to where it was suggested you try to write in each style to learn the most you can from each way to do a scene, either a richer view of description for a particular piece or perhaps a more targeted approach on narrowing down the true point of the piece. I'll throw down an example of a work in progress now though I sure I am a maximalist at heart.

Madoc’s eyes opened in briny deep and suffocation came with awareness of the depth. The lighted surface above shimmered like sword blades dancing. He kicked up and strained for that ceiling. A great dark hulk of a thing came with a rolling swell behind him. Turning he latched on, holding with the same indomitable grip of the moon upon the sea.

He held to the shattered mainmast as it cascaded down the waves and back up again. Time and again spitting out the salt water that threatened to fill his lungs. The arc of lightning and roll of thunder was primordial and malevolent. He couldn't help but wonder at the sudden storm and its cataclysmic genesis. Did strange foreign gods dice with his fate as the chief of the Choctaw’s had warned before he set sail?

And now my minimalist take.

He was drowning. Tossed under the waves along with the broken sloop. Straining for both the surface and breath, he fought to rise. Bursting forth, he took hold of the broken mainmast. He clung like a barnacle despite the showering waves and cascading rain. The storm was sudden and terrible. Madoc wondered at the warnings he had been given.

UGHH! Just wrote that it's my minimalist take-I can't help but feel like I need to keep adding to that. WHY? because that is my style. The first came quickly and flowed and with the minimalist I had to think about how to keep it short-it wasn't truly my natural flowing voice.

What do you do?


The Debster said...

honestly honey, I much prefer your voice over the minimalist take. you have such a beautiful, poetic prose that flows so easily. I would rather read that any day. love you!

CKHB said...

Thanks for playing along! I would argue that your original writing is in fact a mix of min. and max. Your vocabulary and imagery is max., but your sentence and paragraph length is min. (I'll be talking more about "WHAT IS max/min?" tomorrow.)

And I would consider keeping "he was drowning" from the second version. Yes, clearly he's struggling in both versions, but death seems far more imminent in the 2nd draft. The power of the simple realization, "I'm drowning", may be worths saving!

David J. West said...

Thank's Hun.

Thank's Carrie, I appreciate that, I may keep that part in the submission when I present it. I suppose that is why on your blog I wrote that I side with both teams ala Cormac McCarthy. My first novel, is 116,000 words but I think it moves at a very quick pace for epic spec/fantasy/historical.

M. Gray said...

I love your max style and agree with The Debster that you have poetic prose.

I'm the reverse. A minimalist. I wonder if you'll hate my book!!!

David J. West said...

Mary, not nessicarily-I am a big fan of Hemingway.

I'm just saying that I don't think its my style-what comes to me naturally.

I am excited about yours because I like the concepts of your pathos/logos powers.

Abel said...

I'm a minimalist. I think it has to do with the fact I work as a copywriter.

David J. West said...

Thanks Abel. I suppose that would do it.

Even with some minimalist influences I am sure the max is what has grabbed me more (prose-wise) all my life and thus influenced me in the other direction.

Still I enjoy both done well.

L.A. DeVaul said...

Sorry David. I take the minimalist side. I have a hard time reading maximist. It just feels like so much blah blah blah. It can work, but I even have a hard time with Dickens. Just my personal taste.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

I'm a minimalist, writer and reader. A large part of my rewriting drafts is going back in and adding detail. As for reading, I appreciate spare writing, but I also enjoy maximist if it reads well.

David J. West said...

L.A. are you saying sorry you are a minimalist or sorry you prefer my minimalist writing? And I tried to read Great Expectation-I had great expectation of the tale and I hated it and couldn't finish.

I do add detail in my rewrites like you Karen but I also know I put them there in the first place. I would hope I read well to you then.

Melanie Goldmund said...

When I'm writing, I think I tend more towards the minimalist side of things. I describe what I consider to be necessary, which is mostly the actions and the thoughts of the character. I rarely describe scenes unless those details are an indispensible part of the story.

I read both kinds of authors, but I think the scales tip towards minimalist. I don't usually mind max-style, but if descriptions get too lengthy, or seem superfluous or even downright boring, I skip over them and look for more action or dialogue.

That said, I preferred the max version of your scene. In the mini version, I felt that it was a very fast "telling", as compared to "showing," and there wasn't enough depth to involve my full attention.

Hmm, maybe I actually prefer a good balance between max and mini. Not too much of one thing, but not too little, either.

Th. said...


You call that minimalism?

Pfft. Honey, you don't know nothin' about minimalism.

David J. West said...

Did I claim to be a minimalist?

L.A. DeVaul said...

I usually don't read maximist writing. I prefer minimalist. But sometimes maximist is good. I just feel like it usually needs to be edited to have all those extra words taken out.

Great Expectations *shudder* why did they name it such a hopeful title? I did not like it Sam I am.

David J. West said...

Yeah it depends, I wish someone had been a little more heavy handed in the editing for a couple novels I read recently.

Melissa J. Cunningham said...

Thanks for visiting my post! I haven't read any of these books you reviewed. I'll have to give them a try. Thanks!

David J. West said...

Hey Melissa

Ghost Waves may be the closest for you I would bet-probably jusy closer to your genre-the others might be a bit bloody-except for Angie's.